March 03, 2009
Republican Alternatives on the Budget

It sure looks as if the state Senate Republicans have done more to put out a realistic plan for balancing the state budget [pdf] than anyone in the majority party is willing to discuss publicly.

Summary point in the GOP plan:

This is not to say any of these programs is not nice to have, good or beneficial. But in these economic times the question is not one of what state government wants to do, but rather what it must do. The priorities of state government must be to fund basic education and protect the most vulnerable. Other programs must be foregone, much as families throughout Washington are doing.

That's a fair description. There are certainly individual items in the proposed cuts worthy of serious debate. Meanwhile, one could certainly quibble with some assumptions under which the plan is formulated (example: should we really want to use all of the "rainy day fund"?)

Nonetheless, it's a plan. It's largely realistic. And deserves serious discussion in Olympia as an alternative to the standard fare of throwing up one's hands and looking for ways of raising taxes in order to avoid left-of-center interest groups yelling at you in your office.

Now, if we could just get the GOP plan in a more digestible product than a nine-page PDF...

Posted by Eric Earling at March 03, 2009 10:02 AM | Email This
1. Has it been reviewed and blessed by Dino? :)

Posted by: Duffman on March 3, 2009 09:50 AM
2. Republicans need a bigger stable than Rossi. Your question should be whether Eric has signed off? He never said and prefers to report and let you decide.

Posted by: swatter on March 3, 2009 10:41 AM
3. This blog helped sway my vote - to the honorable Sir Dino. I would think since he was apparently so highly touted and held in such high regard for especially his fiscal policies that he would be consulted on this. Do we have someone in our midst that might have 'solutions' to this fiscal nightmare but will not 'contribute' because of being defeated? Surely he is bigger than that.
Why doesn't he weigh-in on all of this and 'advise' our Governor on how to proceed? How would HE handle it?

Posted by: Duffman on March 3, 2009 11:00 AM
4. Sometimes 'quiet' can speak so loudly! :)

Posted by: Duffman on March 3, 2009 12:28 PM
5. Now, if we could just get the GOP plan in a more digestible product than a nine-page PDF.

You could have Eric break it down into hundreds of Twitter posts, might be a worthy use of his time.

Posted by: Dingo Rossi on March 3, 2009 02:00 PM
6. I read through the treatise and found many good points. The problems I found are listed below:

A. Amendment to Mini-supplement: "more stringent welfare reform sanctions" sounds like tough talk, but there isn't a policy attached to it. Does this mean more law enforcement and incarceration, or is this a civil penalty? Another "feel good" statement is the "deporting illegal alien offenders". That function is not under the control of Washington State. To affect the deportation means transferring these prisoners to federal custody. This is not a cost savings but cost shifting since it puts more burden on the federal govt. More frequent verification of eligibility for children's health care also sounds good, but it is a tax increase. Unless they are verifying their eligibility as a hobby, the time they are dedicating to the State is uncompensated.

Under C: I also have a problem with eliminating health care coverage for illegal immigrants. Not all procedures should be covered, but basic health and immunizations should be covered. This is an anathema to conservatives and I must admit that I am not a fan of it either. But like all public policy there are inherent trade offs that must be made in the interests of public benefit. I know that this downturn in the economy has wiped one year of GDP earnings from the nation's wealth, but a pandemic could cripple our economy in ways that we cannot conceive. The 1918 influenza outbreak infected an estimated 1/3 of the global population and killed between 3% and 6%. If an outbreak were to occur with the same infection rates, economic activity would grind nearly to a halt. $15 trillion dollars in losses might seem trivial when the next pandemic hits the world. The public health system needs to be kept intact - not at any cost - for the best of reasons: economic self-interest.

Halting liquor tax sharing is just saving the State money. It shifts the burden to the municipalities and counties. The realized savings are only at one level of the government.

I'm not sure where the savings come from in shifting more prisoners to out-of-state facilities. How about if we just quit making laws that incarcerate people and fine them instead for their malfeasance?

I agree with everything else. Can we throw in repeal of the automatic increase in the minimum wage?

Posted by: Marv Swett on March 3, 2009 03:22 PM
7. The fact that they presented a plan to balance the budget without raising taxes at least shows that the discussion is worthy and it might be possible. It also shows knee-jerk response by Democrats to raise taxes to balance it is just foolish.

Posted by: Palouse on March 3, 2009 03:50 PM
8. #6 Thanks Marv, may be you should have run for Governor.

Posted by: Duffman on March 3, 2009 05:16 PM
9. Eric,
Thanks for the post.

First, I do like the presentation approach. It is clear, provides a good summary for discussion, and also provide concrete examples of cuts. I would agree with the summary of the problem.

Second, where I feel the approach fails, however, is a general concentration of cuts in a couple key specific areas, one being Health care (more on that in a moment). Some of the areas are definitely worthy of discussion. Any pay and benefits issue regarding state workers does need to be addressed. I believe the unions have not taken ownership of their fair share of the situation and are not helping state workers by drawing such hard lines in the sand. While state pay may be low in some occupations (like IT), there are also areas where there is overpay (more so higher classification). I think one way to save costs would be for the state auditor (or someone outside the main agencies) to hire an independent HR outfit to do a job classification review and see how many workers actually meet their job classification's standard. Other areas like why pay for full time Kindergarten when we can fully fund basic education for the rest of the students is also worthwhile.

The area I do have concern with the proposals is in their limiting and cutting back on Health care. In normal times, it is a good question, but with the current economy, I believe it hurts us all by limiting Basic Health enrollment. Basic Health is no gold-plated program. It does however provide basic preventative support and is a necessary stop-gap for the unemployed. Without any insurance the unemployed still have to seek health care and are left with the option of incurring overwhelming debt that further compounds their problems or the costs are passed onto the the rest of us in further rising health costs. We do need to tackle Health Care reform as a country. We can't leave it to any specific party to tackle (e.g., Doctors, Insurance company, politicians, etc.). They all have there own vested interest. Health care reform needs to be an across the board commission that focuses on what works and what doesn't. The government can definitely play a role by setting standards (like formalizing an open standard for medical records exchange). Too long Medical IT has been the purvey of private interests. Regional Information exchanges that protect individuals medical information, but also provide open API and open-source products is needed. We can solve the Health Care problem with more openness of information and this is where the government can play a role. Yes, private insurers and medical companies may not like it, but they are paying us a disservice. Right now, each has their own proprietary stack of information that doesn't talk to each other. Right now, individual can not truly make their own decision as to costs. We get medical bills where doctors/specialists charge an inflated fee to see insurance companies reduce it, while both know the game. It make doctor's look greedy and insurance companies look like they are saving people money. They aren't. It is all a game.

One area, where Republicans should be leading is in the promotion of HSA (Health Savings Accounts). The HSA/High Deductable plan puts the burden back on the consumer and gets the middle-man out of the equation. There is still catastrophic coverage, but for day to day expense it becomes a simple transaction between consumer and provider. The provider can charge the reduced rate since they also don't have to deal with the insurance companies. This will only work, however, with more openness in information interchange, so doctors can share patient records with other doctors.

This is where the Republicans should be focusing and not on cutting Basic Health, which can provide a stop-gap preventative care for those without insurance.

Posted by: tc on March 4, 2009 07:51 AM
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